March 7, 2023

Sense of Control, Selective Attention, Cognitive Inhibition, and Psychosocial Outcomes after Retraining and Control Therapy (ReACT) in Pediatric Functional Seizures

Abstract found on PubMed

Background: Differences in sense of control, cognitive inhibition, and selective attention in pediatric functional seizures (FS) versus matched controls implicate these as potential novel treatment targets. Retraining and Control Therapy (ReACT), which targets these factors, has been shown in a randomized controlled trial to be effective in improving pediatric FS with 82% of patients having complete symptom remission at 60 days following treatment. However, post-intervention data on sense of control, cognitive inhibition, and selective attention are not yet available. In this study, we assess changes in these and other psychosocial factors after ReACT.

Methods: Children with FS (N = 14, Mage = 15.00, 64.3% female, 64.3% White) completed 8 weeks of ReACT and reported FS frequency at pre and post-1 (7 days before and after ReACT). At pre, post-1, and post-2 (60 days after ReACT), all 14 children completed the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory Generic Core Scales, Behavior Assessment System (BASC2), and Children’s Somatic Symptoms Inventory-24 (CSSI-24), and 8 children completed a modified Stroop task with seizure symptoms condition in which participants are presented with a word and respond to the ink color (e.g., “unconscious” in red) to assess selective attention and cognitive inhibition.

Results: Awareness that control was manipulated in the turbulence condition of the MAT increased at post-1 vs. pre- (p = 0.02, ?2 = 0.57). This change correlated with a reduction in FS frequency after ReACT (r = 0.84, p < 0.01). Reaction time significantly improved for the seizure symptoms Stroop condition at post-2 compared to pre- (p = 0.02, ?2 = 0.50), while the congruent and incongruent conditions were not different across time points. Quality of life was significantly improved at post-2, but the improvement was not significant when controlling for change in FS. Somatic symptom measures were significantly lower at post-2 vs. pre (BASC2: t(12) = 2.25, p = 0.04; CSSI-24: t(11) = 4.17, p < 0.01). No differences were observed regarding mood.

Conclusion: Sense of control improved after retraining and control therapy (ReACT), and this improvement was proportional to a decrease in functional seizures (FS), suggesting this as a possible mechanism by which ReACT treats pediatric FS. Selective attention and cognitive inhibition were significantly increased 60 days after ReACT. The lack of improvement in QOL after controlling for change in FS suggests QOL changes may be mediated by decreases in FS. ReACT also improved general somatic symptoms independent of FS changes.

Related News